Sunday, November 15, 2009

Raj Thackeray: Dissecting a lingual terrorist

The worst way to reason is to have no reason. There may be reasons not to have a reason. No reason is a good way to keep people guessing the reason. If you have the reason, you can’t actually fool people not to know the reason. The reason has to be real and not imaginary.

Raj Thackeray, the nefarious nephew of Bal Thackeray, has been on rampage citing a single reason: imagined insult to Marathi language. Does speaking Hindi or any other language in the state of Maharashtra belittle Marathi? By taking oath in Hindi Abu Asim Azmi has not shown any disgrace and disregard to Marathi language. Raj Thackeray’s elected goons’ rampage in Maharashtra assembly has proved that Abu Asim Azmi can alone bring disrespect to Marathi language! Is Marathi language and culture so hollow that it can be brought to disrespect by the utterance of a single being? In the recent past Raj Thackeray’s men have targeted Bollywood personalities. Jaya Bachchan’s unintentional utterance that ‘she will speak Hindi because she is from Uttar Pradesh’ did not go well with Raj although Jaya had apologized right there to the people of Maharashtra for not speaking in Marathi. Is Hindi, our national language, a threat to Marathi, Maharashtra’s official language? Can’t Hindi and Marathi co-exist in Maharashtra? Language should promote harmony and not hatred.

Raj must salute India’s tolerant democracy that allows him to indulge in lingual terrorism. Raj believes in lingual hegemony of aggression. He portrays himself as a messiah of Marathi language and Marathi manoos (Marathi population). Will his intolerant attitude towards Hindi promote Marathi? Aggression does not promote a language. It degrades the language and covers it with the dirt of exclusivity. If Raj sincerely wants to promote Marathi, he should rebrand his Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) as Multi-National Sena!

State government must make provisions to recognise ‘lingual terrorism’! The term “lingual terrorism” must find space in terror statues!

Raj is using his mother-tongue to flex his political muscle and put himself on the state’s political radar. The explosive entry of MNS in the assembly is a result of espousing a so-called ‘Marathi’ cause. Politics is the art of the impossible and Raj is very keen to master that ‘art’ even if he has to coin his own slogan of regionalism which is an antithesis to the very idea of Indian nationalism.

Raj’s theatrics began with the formation of MNS when he felt that he is being ‘sidelined’ by Udhav, Bal Thackeray’s son. A political party needs an ideology and issue to keep breathing. Raj raised an issue which became the core ideology of MNS: to check uncontrolled migration to Bombay from North India especially from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. This might have been a valid issue to an economically-impoverished Marathi but Raj’s constant maneuvering and tirade transformed it into venom. Raj suddenly jumped to language from economics. What happens when a politician propagating regional economics tries to become a linguist? He becomes a political snake whose bite is communicable.

Bal Thackeray became the first victim of the snake-bite when he had blasted Shahrukh Khan as an “outsider” who calls himself a “Dilliwala.” Why should Bollywood become a battleground for the uncle-nephew political rivalry? The answer lies in one question: What have the uncle-nephew done to improve the lot of hapless Marathis? They have only paid lip-service while Bollywood has paid fat cheques. Not many would know that Bollywood, the world’s biggest film industry, employs thousands of Marathis. To cover their collective failure, Bal Thackeray and Raj are competing with each other to target a symbol of economic success: Bollywood.

In the past, state has acted like a mute spectator. The reason was simple: The Congress-NCP alliance was in no mood to offend Marathi sensibilities. It had adopted an old British dictum: Divide and rule. It tacitly supported Raj’s rants in order to divide Sena’s Marathi votes. This political trend can’t survive any more.

Maharashtra’s mainstream political parties have reacted cautiously to issue of Marathi language after infamous slap-episode in assembly. Any official utterance is bound to have a long-term consequence. Marathi mass will not gain from this political game because players involved in this game are concerned about their private rather than public interests!

It is a dangerous game where Indian nationalism is being challenged by Marathi jingoism.

Lingual compulsions cannot succeed in a country like India. How would Raj react if Marathis working in the Middle East are forced to speak Arabic at public functions? Will Raj support the compulsion?

Bombay is a city that does not belong to any particular community. It is a city which has produced Suketu Mehta and Salman Rushdie. It equally belongs to Dileep Padgaonkar and Shobhaa De`. It is a city of dreams where a Marathi as well as a Bihari co-exist to eke out a living. It is a city of irony where thousands come for bread and butter. And a few have come here in search of the bomb as well. Bombay is Bombay not because of Marathis like Raj but because of Gujaratis, Parsis and Muslims who have nurtured this city into a cultural mega polis.

Having stayed in Poona, I know the fact that Marathi is a civilised language. Raj Thackeray and his frustrated men are making a mockery of Marathi. Average Marathis must realize the fact that lingual compulsion as demanded by Raj is not going to improve their condition. Raj is using it as an “ideology”. The empty Marathi stomach can not be fed by an ideology. The last word should be left to a Pune-based Marathi friend:

“If proficiency in speaking in Marathi was the only criteria, why not subject these politicians to examinations and elect them on that basis, rather than wasting resources on elections.”

Raj Thackeray’s terrible 13 should press to implement the above suggestion!

Sunday Inquilab, November 15, 2009


Jayant said...

Do you having lived in Maharashtra speak Marathi as a first language or Urdu? If you do speak Urdu, you have absolutely no locus standi in the matter. And yeah Abu Azmi got what was coming to him..and i hope some more too! Living in Maharashtra for 20+ years and an elected MLA and cant speak the language of the state.

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